Article

Stem Cells Figure Prominently in 2006 Election

Many candidates touted their support for embryonic stem cell research—now they must make good on their promises.

Support for embryonic stem cell research played an important role for voters in the 2006 election. The Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative passed in Missouri, and candidates who used support for stem cell research as a central campaign issue were quite successful—58 percent of races between an opponent and supporter of stem cell research went to the supporter.

The key stem cell candidate victories occurred in Missouri and Wisconsin. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s support of stem cell research and the embryonic stem cell ballot initiative helped her defeat incumbent Jim Talent in Missouri. And Gov. Jim Doyle won reelection in Wisconsin after campaigning heavily on his support for the research.

Stem cells were crucial in other races around the country. Supporters of stem cell research won Senate seats in Maryland, New Jersey, and Ohio against opponents, resulting in opponents of embryonic stem cell research losing every Senate race run against a vocal supporter.

Supporters of the research also defeated incumbent representatives opposing embryonic stem cell research in conservative districts in Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania. Six incumbent opponents of embryonic stem cell research in conservative districts were defeated, with a few others narrowly winning.

Sensing the groundswell of support for embryonic stem cell research, candidates were quick to tout their support; in the last month before the election there were almost twice as many ads about stem cell research as in the previous two months. This electoral strategy paid off for supporters at the polls.

Now it is time for these newly elected senators and representatives to take their campaign issues to Congress. Supporters of stem cell research in the House and Senate have vowed to introduce the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, the same legislation President Bush vetoed last summer. In January, candidates must fulfill their promise to voters by supporting this legislation that will loosen the Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and open the door for basic research and new treatments for diseases that afflict millions of Americans.

To see a summary of races in which embryonic stem cell research was a factor, click here.